Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: Local journalist Mahdieh Amiri speaks of the hardships of practicing journalism in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr. Amiri has been working as a journalist in Bushehr for years. Since 2007, she has been the editor-in-chief of a few local websites, biweekly and quarterly magazines. She is now the editor-in-chief of hamooniran.com website and Ava-ye Dashtestan biweekly.
Ozra Dejam, Journlaist
Tiny Newsroom of Our House a Chance to Analyze and Interview2 August 2012
Reported by Sara Mohseni
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info-Her first significant journalistic experience was an interview with Anwar Sadat, the then president of Egypt and it has been almost 40 years ago.
Veteran journalists who had worked at Pars News Agency (now known as IRNA) remember Ozra Dejam very well. She met her husband “Mahmoud Mahjoub” at Pars News Agency. They initiated their own tiny newsroom and inspired their three daughters to enter this field. She tells us a few of her memories and stories from Pars News Agency. Dejam tells us about a book she is writing about her journalist husband. She also tells us about her wishes for the society of Iranian journalists and her hopes for politicians to leave journalism for journalists.
Mrs Dejam, you are known as one of the veteran journalists in Iran. Please tell us how you started your career and where you worked.
My father used to work in Pars News Agency as a technical staff. It actually put journalism on my way as a career. I went to Pars News Agency for my job interview in 1969. Doctor Manouchehr Azmoun warned me that the news agency did not have any work hours. He said: “you may have to work for two or three shifts.” When he saw my consent, he told me “for now, the typist position is vacant. You are employed for this position, but your job will be to cover foreign news bulletin.” Anyhow, I started working there. The then editor-in-chief Parviz Valizadeh soon realized my abilities and intuition were far greater than what I was told to do. So, I was appointed to cover local news bulletin. I should mention that the main task of the news agency was to prepare news for the radio. A copy of each piece of news were sent for the bulletin to be typed on stencil sheets and then printed. After some time, I was promoted to the position of editor of foreign news and then to editor of local news. Of course, during all those years, the news agency helped us so much improve our knowledge by inviting media professors and organizing different courses, including literature, history, statistics, etc.
In short, after a while I saw that I had become a journalist. But I continued working as the news editor. That was until one of the reporters who had the Ceremonial Card (with this card, you were among the only five reporters who were allowed to cover the news programs related to the Shah, his wife and children) went abroad. Considering my working experience, the management decided to propose me to get this card. Therefore, after six years of working in different news sections, I started my career as a political journalist.
Say about the time you were working in the Pars News Agency (Islamic Republic) and the differences of the editorial staff at that time compared with today’s staff?
The working conditions were basically very different. The news agency was a subsidiary administration of the Information and Tourism Ministry (now the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry). The news agency was made up of technical, local and foreign news gathering and production units. The publishing unit of the news agency also published bulletins for the news agency. The working hours were 24/7. The telex and teleprinter units were working 24 hours a day. Different people used to work during different shifts for the news at 7 AM, 5-minute news at the beginning of each hour, news 2 PM, and nightly news. Some people also used to start their work from 8 PM for the special bulletin, which would be put on the desk of government authorities in the morning. These continued to exist until the Radio & TV launched the Central News Unit, which gradually decreased their need to the news agency.
The news agency then became an independent organization under the supervision of the Information & Tourism Ministry. In 1975, the news agency was relocated from Arg Sq. to Yusefabad Junction. The way we worked also changed thereafter and new people were recruited for newly-launched news desks. In addition to news management, political, parliamentary, social, cultural and higher education, provincial, economic and foreign desks were established. Concurrent with these changes, the news agency was about to launch a report desk, but they never did.
The main difference between then and what I saw later in the news agency was the responsibility for the news areas. The reporter of a news area had to accept all responsibilities for the news related to their area. These responsibilities faded away later. Of course, I was soon the victim of cliquish cleanup because of the news agency no longer needs a female reporter and retired in 1980. I do not know much about working conditions during the next years. Because the changes within the news agency started in 1975 and new offices opened gradually.
Do you remember your first news or reportage?
I wrote my first reportage during my trip to Egypt for the inauguration of Tehran-Cairo air route, in which I interview Anwar El Sadat.
What was the most unforgettable reportage or interview you prepared? What is the reminiscence?
News gathering and writing can each entail a memorable thing. However, news coverage of the trip of Shah’s wife to Iraq to visit Ayatollah Khoyi, and departure of the Shah and his wife from Iran, were the two most important historical events that I would never forget, since they were rather different from the other news.
In terms of world coverage, my best work was in the Islamic Conference held in Islamabad, Pakistan, after the Iranian Revolution and at the time of Sadeq Ghotbzadeh’s premiership. However, I cherish my interview with Saeed Hajjarian after an attempted assassination against him. I also always remember my interview with the former mayor of Tehran Gholamreza Karbaschi after he was released from prison and an interview with Ali Fallahian, former Minister of Intelligence in cabinet of President Rafsanjani and also a candidate for the presidential election in 2001.
Are working at the moment?
Yes. But after the Iranian revolution in 1979 I lost my job for a while. But I resumed my career in various magazines and now I am an editor at Ravand-e Eghtesadi (Economical Process) monthly magazine. Have you faced more problems in journalism as a woman journalist rather than your male colleagues? Have you experienced any discrimination based on your gender? There were various occasions that I felt such discrimination. As a the secretary of Women Committee at Journalism Association I got to learn about the depth of such problems.
How would you summarize journalism in today Iran in one sentence?
I don’t know if it would offend young journalists if I say “what journalism”!
You have a media family. Can you tell us about the little newsroom that you have at home? Why is your most of your family works in this field?
I am surprised by it too. Maybe it is mostly for my husband’s and my passion in journalism that our children became interested in this field. You worded it so beautifully; we have our own little newsroom at home.
My husband was an editor in chief and he was my direct supervisor at political and parliament desk. He was strict about my job and his server attitude towards my work dragged the work discussion to home. Maybe my father’s interest in children’s book writing had its own effects! Our third child is not into news and journalism but translates children’s books from German to Persian.
You have written a few books as well. Can you talk a little bit about your books? Would you explain if you have faith in research and studies in journalism?
I strongly believe in research in this field. Journalism is no different from research and studies. “The First Women” is a book that reviews the firsts in a 100-year-old period. I assume I have taken an initiating step in this area of research. Now I am writing a diary of 5 years of my life that I have dealt with my husband’s illness. It will take longer than I expected for the emotional swings.
What did you want to achieve at the end of this road? Did you get what you wanted?
Believe it or not, I never had an end in my mind. I don’t believe that this career has an end.
What do you wish for Iranian journalists?
There’s no harm in dreaming. Not for me though! Youngsters must make a wish! However, I wish politician would leave this career for us. Maybe then we could work in this field professionally. I’m not optimistic about it yet. They have been controlling the press under various titles like editors in chief, investors, shareholders, and managers.
Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: How is life for Iranian journalists after prison? Does their attitude toward their journalism – the profession that put them in jail – change? Are they more conservative than before? Or bolder?
Khabarnegaran – Niki Azad: He has been put in jail three times for his journalist writing, though he says that jail has not made him feel disappointed with the profession of journalism.